See Part 2 here.
What follows is a two part rebuttal series of the atheist Godless Cranium. He wrote an article called ‘10 Ways to Improve the Bible‘ and it shall be our task here to consider his recommendations. We shall review his first five points below:
1. Godless Cranium (GC): “Slap a warning label on that bad boy that says, “This book is not to be taken literally.’”
Reply: This is, for a lack of a better word, a stupid comment as the Bible is a library of ancient literature containing many different genres of writing. Our gospels are biographical, Revelation is apocalyptic, the Psalms are poetic, other books are prophetic and so on. This must be considered when sifting through what it literal as opposed to what is symbolic, metaphorical etc. John tells us that Jesus referred to himself a door: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved…” (10:9) – are we to really believe that Jesus was a literal wooden door with a door handle? Obviously not. On the other hand Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the 5000 thousand as attested in all our gospels almost certainly happened and reads as a straightforward historical narrative (this miracle passes the criterion of multiple attestation & undesigned coincidences thus i take it as historical). So, by simply considering genre we see the falsity in this argument. Further, GC’s comment that “this book is not to be taken literally” is further silly because the Bible is not one book as he seems to think it is. Instead it is 66 books written by 40 or more authors over a period of 1600 or so years. You would think that someone who is telling us how to improve the Bible would at least know this.
2. GC: “In addition to the warning label, provide color coding so that people know which stories to believe and which ones are nothing but an analogy or parable. Not only would this help atheists, but you’d probably cut down the number of Christian denominations from around 40,000 to just a few.”
Denominations do not nullify the Christian worldview (I answer this challenge here) just as atheistic denominations (humanism, naturalism, nihilism etc.) do not nullify atheism. Also that some biblical narratives are interpreted differently between Christians is immaterial. Whether the Earth was created in six literal days or over billions of years (via a evolutionary process or not) says nothing about the truth of Christianity based upon Jesus’ resurrection as a historical event. All it tells us is that people interpret things differently, not whether a belief system is true or false.
3. GC: “Instead of handing out instructions on how to own slaves, just pronounce it unethical to keep and hold slaves.”
Reply: This is also ignorant. I already answered the atheist John Loftus on this point so I will just repeat what I already said. What we see is that God puts in place laws to protect servants (or as the atheist likes to call them “slaves” that resemble the 18th century slave trade) from experiencing abuse at the hands of their masters. Old Testament “slavery” was more analogous to “contractual employment” or “indentured servitude” – much like a sports player who is “owned” by a team or a person contracted to serve a set time in the military. However, instead of abolishing indentured servanthood outright God installs laws to protect the servant. For instance, the killing of a servant merited punishment (Ex. 20:21), injured servants had to be set free (Ex 21:26-27), servants who ran away from oppressive masters were to be freed (Deu. 23:15-16), and the servant was given a day of rest every week (Ex 20:10, Deu 5:14). According to exegete Copan “As we progress through Scripture, we see with increasing clarity how women and servants (slaves) are affirmed as human beings with dignity and worth” (1). So, what we have here are laws given by God to protect the value of people who are looked down upon by others in society, however to expect God to outright abolish indentured servitude would cause more problems than solutions. For example, how would those who had hit financial bankruptcy support themselves & their families, or how would they pay off their loans? A person by selling themselves into indebted servitude would have had a roof over their head, food on the table, a bed to sleep in and a place for their family to reside. This is clearly a non-deal situation God had to work through, as Copan has already noted that these “Mosaic laws do not always reflect the ultimate or the ideal (which the Old Testament itself acknowledges). Further, for God to abolish such a way of life that is so entrenched within ancient Israelite society would be analogous to God banishing the use of computers, smart phones, and even cars in our 21st century context. It just wouldn’t work. What is important are the major moral improvements that ancient Israel strove towards that was inspired by God. Considering this GC’s comment seems ignorant.
4. GC: “If one of your biggest duties as a deity was to get the ball rolling, you could at least get the creation story correct. For example, on the first day you can’t separate day and night if you don’t create the stars (and hence the sun) until the fourth day. Come on God!”
Reply: This objection argues that the Earth existed before the sun & stars were made (since they were made on the 4th day). However, the days prior to day four are said to have mornings and evenings. Is the Genesis account wrong on this point? How can mornings and evenings exist before the creation of the sun? An understanding of the original Hebrew language suggests that, rather than being created, the sun & stars appeared on the fourth day. According to biblical scholar John Collins: “The verb made in Genesis 1:16 does not specifically mean ‘create’; it can refer to that, but it can also refer to ‘working on something that is already there’ or eve ‘appointed’” (2). According to philosopher of science John Lennox: “This interpretation fits well with the explanation, given in the very next verse, of the sun and moon as visible lights in the sky” (3). In other words, when the clouds covering the Earth parted, on day four, the rays from the sun penetrated through. Since the Holy Spirit is said to hover over the water of the early Earth (which is surprisingly consistent from what we know from the natural world (4)) at the beginning of the narrative it would appear that the Genesis creation narrative acts as an eyewitness account of God’s creation activities from the Holy Spirit’s vantage point. So, I believe that we get the Holy Spirit’s view of the penetration of the sun on the 4th day. I believe this negates GC’s argument. Come on Godless Cranium! You can do better than that!
5. GC: “Have one person writing the bible. You could solve so much with this one alone. Hell, better yet, why not do the writing yourself.”
Reply: I find that the intertwining of the biblical narrative from paradise (Genesis 1—2), to paradise lost (Genesis 3—Revelation 20) and to paradise regained (Revelation 21—22) (also known as the meta-narrative) gives us a consistent story & points in the direction of inspiration. Bear in mind that the Bible was written by over 40 authors from three different continents over 1600 years. That it all comes together into one product that speaks one message is quite astounding. I’d rather have that than have just one author doing the whole job.
To be continued….
1. Copan, P. 2011. Is God a Moral Monster? p. 83/4 (Scribd ebook format)
2. Collins, J. 2003. Science and Faith: Friends or Foes? p. 57.
3. Lennox, J. 2011. 7 Days That Divide the World. p. 59.
4. New Scientist. 2008. Ancient Earth was a barren waterworld.